No student setup is complete without it. Whether you’re studying, shaking a leg or doing your dishes, music is often our greatest companion when it comes to ticking off our to-do lists and getting through our hectic schedules.
But what if those schedules get a bit too much?
For many students, exam season can be a period of high stress and anxiety, as pressures rise and temperatures (especially in Manchester) drop. While cracking those knuckles and getting on with it can feel compulsory at this time of year, taking a breather can be one of the best things you can do for your own productivity. For that reason, I’ve compiled a list of nine albums you can step away from your laptop, take a breather, and unwind to.
1. MORT GARSON – Mother Earth’s Plantasia (1973)
Mort Garson’s Mother Earth’s Plantasia is exactly what you’d expect to hear if you went on holiday… to Mars?
Purely instrumental and sonically whacky, Garson’s album is one of the most bizarrely relaxing things I’ve ever heard, making it very difficult to describe. Designed and ‘recorded especially for plants’ (yes that’s right, for plants), good old Mort was banging out tunes on his Moog synthesizer for the environment as early as the 1960s. Still sounding as innovative as ever almost fifty years later, Plantasia is the unconventional yet wholesome electronic project to send you into a healthy hibernation this exam season.
2. JAMES BLAKE – Assume Form (2019)
A masterclass in production and collaboration, James Blake’s latest album Assume Form is the perfect chill-out album for any kind of music lover. Boasting moody features from hip-hop giants like André 3000, Travis Scott and Metro Boomin, a chilling Latin-infused duet with Spanish songstress Rosalía, as well as his own trademark experimental solo tracks, Blake pulls an impressive array of voices and moods together while maintaining his quintessentially soulful sound.
3. SNOH AALEGRA – Ugh, those feels again (2019)
While Snoh Aalegra’s last album FEELS appeared on my last ‘9 albums to…’ list (which you should also check out by the way), her newest masterpiece, Ugh, those feels again is equally deserving of a space on this list. With songs that could make the Terminator shed a tear, Aalegra pulls at her audience’s heartstrings from the second you hit play, channelling innocent romance in the R&B hit ‘I Want You Around’ to blissful post-break up clarity in her unbothered anthem ‘Nothing to Me’. Still flexing her incredible voice and wearing her sensitivity on her sleeve, Ugh, those feels again was made for unwinding.
4. FLEETWOOD MAC – Rumours (1977)
If this album isn’t already in your Ultimate Unwind Starter Pack, you can thank me later.
While their legacy needs no introduction, American rock band Fleetwood Mac have been churning out classics for over five decades, and Rumours continues to stand out as one of the most enduring records of all time. Showcasing Stevie Nicks in her element on the ethereal and heart-breaking ‘Dreams’, spotlighting Christine McVie in her tender piano creation ‘Songbird’, and exploding with the cathartic rock and roll anthem ‘The Chain’, this album is filled with masterpieces to sing, sigh, shout, and rock out to.
5. LUCKY DAYE – Painted (2019)
From understated, alternative love ballads to a 90s Ginuwine ‘Pony’ sample, Lucky Daye’s Painted is a goldmine for any classic R&B fans out there. Holding writing credits for Ne-Yo, Ella Mai and Boyz II Men under his belt, Daye was pretty well seasoned in the genre by the time he came to cook up his own R&B magic at the beginning of this year. While Painted offers chilled out tracks like ‘Roll Some Mo’ and ‘Floods’ to unwind to, groove-filled tracks like ‘Late Night’ and ‘Karma’ make Painted the ideal record to drop your pen and shake off that exam stress to.
6. WILLOW – WILLOW. (2019)
While you might not know it, Willow Smith has released some pretty incredible music since the ‘Whip My Hair’ days. Now favouring folk-driven, alternative tracks over that classic 2010 autotune, the now mononymously named Willow has a much rawer musical approach, and effortlessly floats between moments of grungy angst (‘Like A Bird’) and dreamy melancholy (‘Time Machine’). Featuring thought-provoking lyrics, feminist themes and even an appearance from her big brother Jaden, Willow eases us into her world in this expressive, stripped back project.
7. RAVEENA – Lucid (2019)
Raveena Aurora, or simply Raveena dropped her stunning first album Lucid this year, and her choice of title is absolutely fitting. Piling beautiful harmonies, gentle keyboards and jazzy guitars on top of one another, this album quite literally hypnotises you from the moment you press play (see the opening track, ‘Hypnosis’). Pulling sonically from soulful, R&B traditions as well as her own South Asian roots, Raveena skilfully balances her artistic influences into a delicate but powerful musical package.
8. EEVEE – ep seeds (2017)
Would an unwinding playlist be complete without a little lo-fi nowadays?
While the Netherlands based lo-fi producer eevee has amassed a huge number of mixtapes, EPs and fans for her warm, mellow arrangements, her 2017 project ‘ep seeds’ was what drew me and many others into her unique musical universe. Chopping up 1940s style voiceovers with ambient pianos, synthesisers, guitars and that trademark lo-fi static, eevee’s discography is designed to subdue the overactive mind.
9. MORMOR – Some Place Else (2019)
Canadian multi-instrumentalist MorMor’s latest EP combines both the attitude and vocals of a 90s indie record with experimental and delicately layered instrumental work, making Some Place Else both nostalgic and futuristic in sound. Feeling like the perfect album to go and star-gaze to, MorMor blends the best of many musical worlds to produce something truly satisfying to the stressed-out ear. With escapist titles like ‘Get Away’ and ‘Make Believe’, MorMor’s Some Place Else is the ideal EP to drift away with, just for a little while…